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Voicemails from Kyiv: A survivor who stayed describes what war is really like

For more than a month, Larysa has left daily voicemails for a TODAY Parents reporter, detailing what life is like in Kyiv as Russians continue to bomb the city.

Chronicling the War

March 13, 202202:39

After more than a month of air sirens, shelling and bombings as Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, one woman in Kyiv is continuing to send daily voicemails to TODAY Parents, detailing the ongoing mental, emotional and physical toll of war.

TODAY Parents has been speaking to Larysa, whose last name is being withheld for her safety, since Sunday, Feb. 27, via WhatsApp. Larysa is in Kyiv with her parents — her mother is in cancer remission and requires access to specific medication, so the family does not want to leave the city.

Related: Listen to Larysa's first week of voicemails

After publishing a week's worth of Larysa's updates with her explicit permission, TODAY has received continued requests to provide an update on Larysa's status. She is still in Kyiv, though the constant violence has taken a toll — for the first time since the war began, she is considering leaving her home.


Larysa, who lives in Kyiv with her parents, has endured the Russian assault on the city.
Larysa, who lives in Kyiv with her parents, has endured the Russian assault on the city.Courtesy Larysa

Her mental health is also suffering — she exists in a constant state of anxiety, living from air siren to sir siren; bombing to bombing. And while the fear is still palpable, a searing anger has also emerged, dominating many of Larysa's emotions. In a number of her dispatches, she asks the same question over and over again: Why? Why is this happening to her country? Why are Russians murdering her people?

Related: Ukraine remains skeptical amid Russia’s pledge to ease attacks

Again, with her permission, TODAY is publishing another week's worth of voice messages, providing an update on Larysa and showing the world how Russia's violent assault is continuing to devastate the everyday lives of Ukrainian people.

Wednesday, March 16 

"Hi, today was rather active working day, so sorry that I haven’t sent you message earlier. Uh, but today was better than yesterday. Nevertheless, (inaudible) whole last evening, whole night, whole day. Again shocked that this morning missile, cruise missile, which was destroyed by our air defense. Nevertheless, piece of such missile destroyed one building. Everyone alive. Nevertheless this cruise missile, its target was again children’s hospital Okhmatdyt. I can’t understand why. Why children’s hospital? Okhmatdyt fifth or sixth time again target for cruise missile. 

My laugh is so hysterical, that I can’t explain.

"You know, this morning at 6 a.m. I woke up because my cat snored. You know, she really snoring when she’s sleeping. And I was happy that this sound of snore made me wake up, but in five minutes new missile attack. My laugh is so hysterical, that I can’t explain. I’m watching what they do all around me and I am thinking that Orcs in 'The Lord of the Rings' was very nice persons. Because the Russian soldiers, they more worse than, more worse than Orcs."

Thursday, March 17 

"Hi hi hi, I’m fine. Today was rather calm, but in two districts in the morning and afternoon was hot. In my district, was calm. We even vaccinated my cat, because we just — if I decide to leave, I need the — I need her vaccination and passport. But I don’t know. I still don’t know. I still don’t want to do that."


Larysa's beloved cat, who has helped keep her calm during the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine.
Larysa's beloved cat, who has helped keep her calm during the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine.Courtesy Larysa

Saturday, March 19 

"Hi hi hi, I’m OK. Uh, sorry yesterday I made a little stop — I even made less work yesterday. But today, I’m ready to send you new messages. 

"So, what’s today? This night and today was rather calm. The night before was very loud. Um, and morning was very loud. Yesterday was a lot of sirens. Today was rather nice. They gave us a little chance to sleep, because yesterday I wanted to kill all of them, you know? I today heard new joke about, ‘Let’s take their hearts just to see if they have hearts.’ 

Before war, I worried that I still have no children ... Now I’m really happy that I have no children.

"What they do all around my country, I can’t believe. I really can’t believe that humans — people who live in the 21st century with all civilizations — I mean, everything we want to give to us, our civilization, can do that to other people. 

"What I keep in my mind all this time is that, for now, before war, I worried that I still have no children. I was thinking I want children or not? I have my own reasons not to have 'til this time children. But at the same time, now I’m really happy that I have no children. That’s a thought what I’m thinking all time."

Sunday, March 20 

"I’m going to sleep but before that I’m going to send you a message. I guess near 20 or 30 minutes ago was rather big shelling of Kyiv. I know that one commercial center with a lot of stores now destroyed. It’s far away from me, but I heard sound and feel — and felt, and felt shaking of exploding (inaudible). 

"Sound of shelling was even enough to ruin (inaudible) we had a walk with my mom. It’s really strange to live with that — waiting of shelling, shooting and missile attack. 

Before war I didn’t like to watch scary movie. I can’t watch it ... Now, I am watching war video and I have no emotions. I don’t know why.

"Near 2 p.m. was destroyed one missile, but pieces of that missile fell down near one building and like, it’s not (inaudible) but it’s building with apartments. I don’t know how to explain it right. It’s I guess near 16, it has near 16 (inaudible.) 

"Sorry, not 16, nine floor building with apartments that most part, most part of apartments have no windows now. I am still shocked. I think that I live a strange reality, you know? Today was 25th day of war, and I understood that before war I didn’t like to watch scary movie. I can’t watch it. It was so uncomfortable for me, all that blood and everything what can be doing with human body. It made me felt very bad. Now, I am watching war video and I have no emotions. I don’t know why."

A picture of the sky over Kyiv. In it, you can see multiple Russian missile trails.
A picture of the sky over Kyiv. In it, you can see multiple Russian missile trails.Courtesy Larysa

Tuesday, March 22

"Hi to you. I didn’t send you a voicemail yesterday, because I guess I don’t know — this is 27th day of the war and I even don’t know what to tell more. It’s life in between attack and it is attack and waiting of attack, attack and waiting of attack. 

"One of my friend who decided to stay now said he’s — that’s enough. I’m hurt because the last 20 minutes was three attack in Kyiv. 

"We again have long curfew — yesterday around me was a lot — was shooting. All was told that it was training but it was too much shooting so I guess it’s not training."

Thursday, March 24 

After all this month, I still can’t understand why. ... Why they decided to destroy our lives?

"Hi Danielle, I’m OK. You know today is one month — one month ago war started. One month ago, millions lives was destroyed. Someone was killed. Uh, maybe hear sounds behind my window also air defense sirens. After all this month, I still can’t understand why. The main question is why. Why they decided to come to our country? Why they decided to destroy our lives? Why? The only question about everything."

Saturday, March 26


On Saturday, March 26, Larysa's update was a picture of an apple pie she baked in between air sirens.
On Saturday, March 26, Larysa's update was a picture of an apple pie she baked in between air sirens.Courtesy Larysa

Monday, March 28

"Hi Danielle, how are you? I’m … I can say that I am fine, but in the same time I’m so tired of this situation. You know, I feel myself like a person without a future. It’s, um, this (inaudible) and sounds of bombing … it’s hard.

"Now, I guess after all this weeks I feel how it’s hard and how it’s (inaudible) on my head and what to do with my mental health. I’m really tired. I don’t know what to do. Need to go away or better to stay? I don’t know what would be right. It’s hard."

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